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    ABSTRACT: To understand patterns of geochemical cycling in pristine versus contaminated groundwater ecosystems, pristine shallow groundwater (FW301) and contaminated groundwater (FW106) samples from the Oak Ridge Integrated Field Research Center (OR-IFRC) were sequenced and compared to each other to determine phylogenetic and metabolic difference between the communities. Proteobacteria (e.g., Burkholderia, Pseudomonas) are the most abundant lineages in the pristine community, though a significant proportion (>55%) of the community is composed of poorly characterized low abundance (individually <1%) lineages. The phylogenetic diversity of the pristine community contributed to a broader diversity of metabolic networks than the contaminated community. In addition, the pristine community encodes redundant and mostly complete geochemical cycles distributed over multiple lineages and appears capable of a wide range of metabolic activities. In contrast, many geochemical cycles in the contaminated community appear truncated or minimized due to decreased biodiversity and dominance by Rhodanobacter populations capable of surviving the combination of stresses at the site. These results indicate that the pristine site contains more robust and encodes more functional redundancy than the stressed community, which contributes to more efficient nutrient cycling and adaptability than the stressed community.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Frontiers in Microbiology
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    Full-text · Dataset · Sep 2015
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    ABSTRACT: A high number of aromatic compounds have been released into aquatic ecosystems and accumulated in the sediment due to their low solubility and high hydrophobicity, causing significant hazards to the environment and human health. Since nitrate is one of the essential nitrogen components and more thermodynamically favorable electron acceptors for anaerobic respiration, nitrate-based bioremediation has been applied to aromatic-contaminated sediments. However, few studies have been focused on the response of aromatic-degrading microbial communities to nitrate addition in anaerobic sediments. Here we hypothesized that high nitrate inputs into the sediment would stimulate aromatic-degrading microbial communities and their associated degrading processes, thus increasing the bioremediation efficiency in aromatic compound-contaminated sediments. We analyzed the changes of key aromatic-degrading genes in the sediment samples from a field-scale site for in-situ bioremediation of aromatic-contaminated creek in the Pearl River Delta before and after nitrate injection using a functional gene array. Our results showed that the genes involved in the degradation of several kinds of aromatic compounds were significantly enriched after nitrate injection, especially those encoding enzymes for central catabolic pathways of aromatic compound degradation, and most of enriched genes were derived from nitrate-reducing microorganisms, possibly accelerating bioremediation of aromatic-contaminated sediments. The sediment nitrate concentration was found to be the predominant factor shaping the aromatic-degrading microbial communities. This study provides new insights into our understanding of the influences of nitrate addition on aromatic-degrading microbial communities in sediments.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Environmental Science & Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Biosynthesis of the popular dyestuff indigo from indole has been comprehensively studied using pure cultures, but less has been done to characterize the indigo production by microbial communities. In our previous studies, a wild strain Comamonas sp. MQ was isolated from activated sludge and the recombinant Escherichia coli nagAc carrying the naphthalene dioxygenase gene (nag) from strain MQ was constructed, both of which were capable of producing indigo from indole. Herein, three activated sludge systems, G1 (non-augmented control), G2 (augmented with Comamonas sp. MQ), and G3 (augmented with recombinant E. coli nagAc), were constructed to investigate indigo production. After 132-day operation, G3 produced the highest yields of indigo (99.5 ± 3.0 mg/l), followed by G2 (27.3 ± 1.3 mg/l) and G1 (19.2 ± 1.2 mg/l). The microbial community dynamics and activities associated with indigo production were analyzed by Illumina Miseq sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. The inoculated strain MQ survived for at least 30 days, whereas E. coli nagAc was undetectable shortly after inoculation. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis suggested the abundance of naphthalene dioxygenase gene (nagAc) from both inoculated strains was strongly correlated with indigo yields in early stages (0–30 days) (P < 0.001) but not in later stages (30–132 days) (P > 0.10) of operation. Based on detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) and dissimilarity test results, the communities underwent a noticeable shift during the operation. Among the four major genera (> 1% on average), the commonly reported indigo-producing populations Comamonas and Pseudomonas showed no positive relationship with indigo yields (P > 0.05) based on Pearson correlation test, while Alcaligenes and Aquamicrobium, rarely reported for indigo production, were positively correlated with indigo yields (P < 0.05). This study should provide new insights into our understanding of indigo bio-production by microbial communities.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Although elevated CO2 (eCO2 ) significantly affects the α-diversity, composition, function, interaction and dynamics of soil microbial communities at the local scale, little is known about eCO2 impacts on the geographic distribution of microorganisms regionally or globally. Here we examined the β-diversity of 110 soil microbial communities across six free air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experimental sites using a high-throughput functional gene array. The β-diversity of soil microbial communities was significantly (p < 0.05) correlated with geographic distance under both CO2 conditions, but declined significantly (p < 0.05) faster at eCO2 with a slope of -0.0250 than at ambient CO2 (aCO2 ) with a slope of -0.0231 though it varied within each individual site, indicating that the spatial turnover rate of soil microbial communities was accelerated under eCO2 at a larger geographic scale (e.g., regionally). Both distance and soil properties significantly (p < 0.05) contributed to the observed microbial β-diversity. This study provides new hypotheses for further understanding their assembly mechanisms that may be especially important as global CO2 continues to increase. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Global Change Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Diazotrophs are the major organismal group responsible for atmospheric nitrogen (N2) fixation in natural ecosystems. The extensive diversity and structure of N2-fixing communities in grassland ecosystems and their responses to increasing atmospheric CO2 remain to be further explored. Through pyrosequencing of nifH gene amplicons and extraction of nifH genes from shotgun metagenomes, coupled with co-occurrence ecological network analysis approaches, we comprehensively analyzed the diazotrophic community in a grassland ecosystem exposed to elevated CO2 (eCO2) for 12 years. Long-term eCO2 increased the abundance of nifH genes but did not change the overall nifH diversity and diazotrophic community structure. Taxonomic and phylogenetic analysis of amplified nifH sequences suggested a high diversity of nifH genes in the soil ecosystem, the majority belonging to nifH clusters I and II. Co-occurrence ecological network analysis identified different co-occurrence patterns for different groups of diazotrophs, such as Azospirillum/Actinobacteria, Mesorhizobium/Conexibacter, and Bradyrhizobium/Acidobacteria. This indicated a potential attraction of non-N2-fixers by diazotrophs in the soil ecosystem. Interestingly, more complex co-occurrence patterns were found for free-living diazotrophs than commonly known symbiotic diazotrophs, which is consistent with the physical isolation nature of symbiotic diazotrophs from the environment by root nodules. The study provides novel insights into our understanding of the microbial ecology of soil diazotrophs in natural ecosystems.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Microbial Ecology
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    ABSTRACT: This study used an artificial enrichment microbial consortium to examine the effects of different substrate conditions on microbial diversity, composition, and function (e.g., zinc leaching efficiency) through adding pyrite (SP group), chalcopyrite (SC group), or both (SPC group) in sphalerite bioleaching systems. 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis showed that microbial community structures and compositions dramatically changed with additions of pyrite or chalcopyrite during the sphalerite bioleaching process. Shannon diversity index showed a significantly increase in the SP (1.460), SC (1.476), and SPC (1.341) groups compared with control (sphalerite group, 0.624) on day 30, meanwhile, zinc leaching efficiencies were enhanced by about 13.4, 2.9, and 13.2 %, respectively. Also, additions of pyrite or chalcopyrite could increase electric potential (ORP) and the concentrations of Fe(3+) and H(+), which were the main factors shaping microbial community structures by Mantel test analysis. Linear regression analysis showed that ORP, Fe(3+) concentration, and pH were significantly correlated to zinc leaching efficiency and microbial diversity. In addition, we found that leaching efficiency showed a positive and significant relationship with microbial diversity. In conclusion, our results showed that the complicated substrates could significantly enhance microbial diversity and activity of function.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
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    ABSTRACT: It is well known that rhizosphere microbiomes differ from those of surrounding soil, and yet we know little about how these root-associated microbial communities change through the growing season and between seasons. We analyzed the response of soil bacteria to roots of the common annual grass Avena fatua over two growing seasons using high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Over the two periods of growth, the rhizosphere bacterial communities followed consistent successional patterns as plants grew, although the starting communities were distinct. Succession in the rhizosphere was characterized by a significant decrease in both taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity relative to background soil communities, driven by reductions in both richness and evenness of the bacterial communities. Plant roots selectively stimulated the relative abundance of Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes but reduced the abundance of Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes. Taxa that increased in relative abundance in the rhizosphere soil displayed phylogenetic clustering, suggesting some conservation and an evolutionary basis for the response of complex soil bacterial communities to the presence of plant roots. The reproducibility of rhizosphere succession and the apparent phylogenetic conservation of rhizosphere competence traits suggest adaptation of the indigenous bacterial community to this common grass over the many decades of its presence.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · mBio
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    ABSTRACT: Discerning network interactions among different species/populations in microbial communities has evoked substantial interests in recent years, but little information is available about temporal dynamics of microbial network interactions in response to environmental perturbations. Here, we modified the random matrix theory (RMT)-based network approach to discern network succession in groundwater microbial communities in response to emulsified vegetable oil (EVO) amendment for uranium bioremediation. Groundwater microbial communities from one control and seven monitor wells were analyzed with a functional gene array (GeoChip 3.0), and functional molecular ecological networks (fMENs) at different time points were reconstructed. Our results showed that the network interactions were dramatically altered by EVO amendment. Dynamic and resilient succession was evident: fairly simple at the initial stage (Day 0), increasingly complex at the middle period (Days 4, 17, 31), most complex at Day 80, and then decreasingly complex at a later stage (140 to 269 days). Unlike previous studies in other habitats, negative interactions predominated in a time-series fMEN, suggesting strong competition among different microbial species in the groundwater systems after EVO injection. Particularly, several keystone sulfate-reducing bacteria showed strong negative interactions with their network neighbors. These results provide mechanistic understanding of the decreased phylogenetic diversity during environmental perturbations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Environmental Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: The soil microbial community plays an important role in terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycling. However, microbial responses to climate warming or cooling remain poorly understood, limiting our ability to predict the consequences of future climate changes. To address this issue, it is critical to identify microbes sensitive to climate change and key driving factors shifting microbial communities. In this study, alpine soil transplant experiments were conducted downwards or upwards along an elevation gradient between 3200 and 3800 m in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau to simulate climate warming or cooling. After a two-year soil transplant experiment, soil bacterial communities were analyzed by pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. The results showed that the transplanted soil bacterial communities became more similar to those in their destination sites, and more different from those in their "home" sites. Warming led to increases in the relative abundances of Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, and Actinobacteria and decreases of Acidobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, and Deltaproteobacteria, while cooling had opposite effects on bacterial communities (symmetric response). Soil temperature and plant biomass contributed significantly to shaping the bacterial community structure. Overall, climate warming or cooling shifted the soil bacterial community structure mainly through species sorting, and such a shift might correlate to important biogeochemical processes such as greenhouse gas emissions. This study provides new insights into our understanding of soil bacterial community responses to climate warming/cooling. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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    Full-text · Conference Paper · May 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Over the past decade, the large-scale cultivation of seaweed Gracilaria has expanded rapidly in the Chinese coastal waters. The production of Gracilaria increased from 50,536 tons (t, dry weight) in 2003 to 114,722 t in 2010. The production of the seaweed ranks third only to kelps Saccharina (formerly referred to as Laminaria) and Undaria in China. Nan'ao located in Shantou City, Guangdong Province has been successfully developed as one of the major cultivation bases of Gracilaria lemaneiformis at an industrial scale in South China since 2000, and the farmed area increased by 11,538-fold from 0.13 ha in 2000 to 1500 ha in 2011. From lab-scale study to field industrial practice, it has been documented that Gracilaria cultivation is beneficial in environmental improvements such as mitigating eutrophication, controlling harmful algal blooms, maintaining healthy mariculture systems, and sequestrating CO2. Gracilaria may significantly remediate contaminants in mariculture ecosystems and improve the water environment, and its cultivation provides a new approach to coastal environmental improvement in China and the world.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Algal Research
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    ABSTRACT: Biological sensors can be engineered to measure a wide range of environmental conditions. Here we show that statistical analysis of DNA from natural microbial communities can be used to accurately identify environmental contaminants, including uranium and nitrate at a nuclear waste site. In addition to contamination, sequence data from the 16S rRNA gene alone can quantitatively predict a rich catalogue of 26 geochemical features collected from 93 wells with highly differing geochemistry characteristics. We extend this approach to identify sites contaminated with hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, finding that altered bacterial communities encode a memory of prior contamination, even after the contaminants themselves have been fully degraded. We show that the bacterial strains that are most useful for detecting oil and uranium are known to interact with these substrates, indicating that this statistical approach uncovers ecologically meaningful interactions consistent with previous experimental observations. Future efforts should focus on evaluating the geographical generalizability of these associations. Taken as a whole, these results indicate that ubiquitous, natural bacterial communities can be used as in situ environmental sensors that respond to and capture perturbations caused by human impacts. These in situ biosensors rely on environmental selection rather than directed engineering, and so this approach could be rapidly deployed and scaled as sequencing technology continues to become faster, simpler, and less expensive. Here we show that DNA from natural bacterial communities can be used as a quantitative biosensor to accurately distinguish unpolluted sites from those contaminated with uranium, nitrate, or oil. These results indicate that bacterial communities can be used as environmental sensors that respond to and capture perturbations caused by human impacts. Copyright © 2015 Smith et al.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · mBio
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    ABSTRACT: The CRISPR-Cas9 system is a powerful and revolutionary genome-editing tool for eukaryotic genomes but its use in bacterial genomes is very limited. Here we investigated the use of the Streptococcus pyogenes CRISPR-Cas9 system in editing the genome of Clostridium cellulolyticum, a model microorganism for bioenergy research. Wildtype Cas9-induced double-strand breaks were lethal to C. cellulolyticum due to the minimal expression of non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) components in this strain. To circumvent this lethality, Cas9 nickase was applied to develop a single nick-triggered homologous recombination strategy, which allows precise one-step editing at intended genomic loci by transforming a single vector. This strategy has a high editing efficiency (>95%) even using short homologous arms (0.2 kb), is able to markerlessly deliver foreign genes into the genome in a single step, enables precise editing even at two very similar target sites differing by two bases preceding the seed region, and has a very high target site density (median interval distance of 9 bp and 95.7% gene coverage in C. cellulolyticum). Together, these results establish a simple and robust methodology for genome editing in NHEJ-ineffective prokaryotes. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: A pilot-scale field experiment demonstrated that a one-time amendment of emulsified vegetable oil (EVO) reduced groundwater U(VI) concentrations for one year in a fast-flowing aquifer. However, little is known about how EVO amendment stimulates the functional gene composition, structure, and dynamics of groundwater microbial communities towards prolonged U(VI) reduction. In this study, we hypothesized that EVO amendment would shift the functional gene composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities, and stimulate key functional genes/groups involved in EVO biodegradation and reduction of electron acceptors in the aquifer. To test these hypotheses, groundwater microbial communities after EVO amendment were analyzed using a comprehensive functional gene microarray. Our results showed that EVO amendment stimulated sequential shifts in the functional composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities. Particularly, the relative abundance of key functional genes/groups involved in EVO biodegradation and the reduction of NO3 (-), Mn(IV), Fe(III), U(VI) and SO4 (2-) significantly increased, especially during the active U(VI) reduction period. The relative abundance for some of these key functional genes/groups remained elevated over nine months. Montel tests suggested that the dynamics in the abundance, composition and structure of these key functional genes/groups was significantly correlated with groundwater concentrations of acetate, NO3 (-), Mn(II), Fe(II), U(VI) and SO4 (2-). Our results suggest that EVO amendment stimulated dynamic succession of key functional microbial communities. This study improves our understanding of the composition, structure, and function changes needed for groundwater microbial communities to sustain a long-term U(VI) reduction. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: We surveyed the functional gene composition and diversity of microbial biofilm communities in 18 New Zealand streams affected by different types of catchment land use, using a comprehensive functional gene array, GeoChip 3.0. A total of 5,371 nutrient cycling and energy metabolism genes within 65 gene families were detected among all samples (342 to 2,666 genes per stream). Carbon cycling genes were most common, followed by nitrogen cycling genes, with smaller proportions of sulphur, phosphorus cycling and energy metabolism genes. Samples from urban and native forest streams had the most similar functional gene composition, while samples from exotic forest and rural streams exhibited the most variation. There were significant differences between nitrogen and sulphur cycling genes detected in native forest and urban samples compared to exotic forest and rural samples, attributed to contrasting proportions of nitrogen fixation, denitrification, and sulphur reduction genes. Most genes were detected only in one or a few samples, with only a small minority occurring in all samples. Nonetheless, 42 of 65 gene families occurred in every sample and overall proportions of gene families were similar among samples from contrasting streams. This suggests the existence of functional gene redundancy among different stream biofilm communities despite contrasting taxonomic composition.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Spatial scaling is a critical issue in ecology, but how anthropogenic activities like fertilization affect spatial scaling is poorly understood, especially for microbial communities. Here, we determined the effects of long-term fertilization on the spatial scaling of microbial functional diversity and its relationships to plant diversity in the 150-year-old Park Grass Experiment, the oldest continuous grassland experiment in the world. Nested samples were taken from plots with contrasting inorganic fertilization regimes, and community DNAs were analyzed using the GeoChip-based functional gene array. The slopes of microbial gene-area relationships (GARs) and plant species-area relationships (SARs) were estimated in a plot receiving nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and a control plot without fertilization. Our results indicated that long-term inorganic fertilization significantly increased both microbial GARs and plant SARs. Microbial spatial turnover rates (i.e., z values) were less than 0.1 and were significantly higher in the fertilized plot (0.0583) than in the control plot (0.0449) (P < 0.0001). The z values also varied significantly with different functional genes involved in carbon (C), N, P, and sulfur (S) cycling and with various phylogenetic groups (archaea, bacteria, and fungi). Similarly, the plant SARs increased significantly (P < 0.0001), from 0.225 in the control plot to 0.419 in the fertilized plot. Soil fertilization, plant diversity, and spatial distance had roughly equal contributions in shaping the microbial functional community structure, while soil geochemical variables contributed less. These results indicated that long-term agricultural practice could alter the spatial scaling of microbial biodiversity.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · mBio
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the genetic basis of microbial evolutionary adaptation to salt (NaCl) stress, populations of Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough (DvH), a sulfate-reducing bacterium important for the biogeochemical cycling of sulfur, carbon and nitrogen, and potentially the bioremediation of toxic heavy metals and radionuclides, were propagated under salt stress or non-stress conditions for 1200 generations. Whole-genome sequencing revealed 11 mutations in salt stress-evolved clone ES9-11 and 14 mutations in non-stress-evolved clone EC3-10. Whole-population sequencing data suggested the rapid selective sweep of the pre-existing polymorphisms under salt stress within the first 100 generations and the slow fixation of new mutations. Population genotyping data demonstrated that the rapid selective sweep of pre-existing polymorphisms was common in salt stress-evolved populations. In contrast, the selection of pre-existing polymorphisms was largely random in EC populations. Consistently, at 100 generations, stress-evolved population ES9 showed improved salt tolerance, namely increased growth rate (2.0-fold), higher biomass yield (1.8-fold) and shorter lag phase (0.7-fold) under higher salinity conditions. The beneficial nature of several mutations was confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis. All four tested mutations contributed to the shortened lag phases under higher salinity condition. In particular, compared with the salt tolerance improvement in ES9-11, a mutation in a histidine kinase protein gene lytS contributed 27% of the growth rate increase and 23% of the biomass yield increase while a mutation in hypothetical gene DVU2472 contributed 24% of the biomass yield increase. Our results suggested that a few beneficial mutations could lead to dramatic improvements in salt tolerance.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 7 April 2015; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.45.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · The ISME Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Cr(VI) is a widespread environmental contaminant that is highly toxic and soluble. Previous work indicated that a one-time amendment of polylactate hydrogen-release compound (HRC) reduced groundwater Cr(VI) concentrations for >3.5 years at a contaminated aquifer; however, microbial communities responsible for Cr(VI) reduction are poorly understood. In this study, we hypothesized that HRC amendment would significantly change the composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities, and that the abundance of key functional genes involved in HRC degradation and electron acceptor reduction would increase for a long term in response to this slowly-degrading, complex substrate. To test these hypotheses, groundwater microbial communities were monitored after HRC amendment for >1 year using a comprehensive functional gene microarray. The results showed that the overall functional composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities underwent sequential shifts after HRC amendment. Particularly, the abundance of functional genes involved in acetate oxidation, denitrification, dissimilatory nitrate reduction, metal reduction, and sulfate reduction significantly increased. The overall community dynamics was significantly correlated with changes in groundwater concentrations of microbial biomass, acetate, NO3-, Cr(VI), Fe(II) and SO42-. Our results suggest that HRC amendment primarily stimulated key functional processes associated with HRC degradation and reduction of multiple electron acceptors in the aquifer towards long-term Cr(VI) reduction.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Environmental Science & Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Atmospheric CO2 concentration is continuously increasing, and previous studies have shown that elevated CO2 (eCO2) significantly impacts C3 plants and their soil microbial communities. However, little is known about effects of eCO2 on the compositional and functional structure, and metabolic potential of soil microbial communities under C4 plants. Here we showed that a C4 maize agroecosystem exposed to eCO2 for eight years shifted the functional and phylogenetic structure of soil microbial communities at both soil depths (0-5 cm and 5-15 cm) using EcoPlate and functional gene array (GeoChip 3.0) analyses. The abundances of key genes involved in carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling were significantly stimulated under eCO2 at both soil depths, although some differences in carbon utilization patterns were observed between the two soil depths. Consistently, CO2 was found to be the dominant factor explaining 11.9% of the structural variation of functional genes, while depth and the interaction of depth and CO2 explained 5.2% and 3.8%, respectively. This study implies that eCO2 has profound effects on the functional structure and metabolic potential/activity of soil microbial communities associated with C4 plants, possibly leading to changes in ecosystem functioning and feedbacks to global change in C4 agroecosystems.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Scientific Reports

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